Sacred Valley Peru: The Last Guide You’ll Ever Need

Oct 23, 2019 | Sacred Valley Peru

What is the Sacred Valley, Peru?

There is so much more to the Sacred Valley in Peru than Machu Picchu and Cusco. The Sacred Valley stretches one hundred kilometers from the Pisac Ruins and Pisac Town to the Machu Picchu citadel.

The valley was an important area for constructing important Inca checkpoints, a sustainable source of water from the Urubamba river, and as it has two distinct seasons, the wet and dry seasons, the valley was and is, perfect for agriculture.

The Sacred Valley is full of diversity, fun, culture, adrenaline, and beaming with life! When you head to Cusco make sure you don’t miss out on much of the action and various other things to see rather than Machu Picchu alone.

We have the full breakdown below of the best things to do, see, and experience while spending your time in the Sacred Valley.

Sacred Valley Peru: The Last Guide You'll Ever Need

How to get to the Sacred Valley from Cusco?

The way to get to the Sacred Valley Peru depends on where you are going. First, you must arrive in Cusco, most likely through airplane. All trips to the Sacred Valley in Peru can be done via a 30 to 2-hour taxi ride.

It is also accessible via bus from Cusco. As seen below you can visit sites such as Pisac, Urubamba, Moray, Maras, Ollantaytambo, or Chinchero.

What is the Elevation of the Sacred Valley, Peru?

The elevation varies depending on where you are located in the Sacred Valley, Peru. The Sacred Valley elevation ranges from 9,800 feet (3,000 meters) at Pisac to 6,730 feet (2,050 meters) at the Urubamba River below the citadel of Machu Picchu. This is much lower elevation than Cusco and Machu Picchu.

Obtaining your Boleto Turistico or Sacred Valley Entrance Ticket

There is no “entrance fee” to get into the Sacred Valley as you can just drive up and check out the towns. However, if you want to get into the various sites and ruins you will want to obtain the Boleto Turistico.

The Boleto Turistico is a single ticket that has to be purchased in advance to allow entry to the various sites in the Sacred Valley of Peru, such as the Pisac and Ollantaytambo ruins.

The Boleto Turistico allows entrance to:

  • Cusco Ruins: Sacsayhuamán, Q’enqo, Puka Pukara, and Tambomachay
  • Cusco Museums and Monuments: Contemporary Art, Museo Historical Regional, Monumento Pachacuteq, Tipon, Quoricancha, Museo de Arte Popular, Centro Quosqo de Arte Nativo, and Pikillaqta
  • Sacred Valley Ruins: Pisac, Ollantaytambo, Chinchero, and Moray.

We over at Cachi Life take care of this for you when you book either the Chinchero, Pisac, and Ollantaytambo or the Maras and Moray Sacred Valley Tours.

 

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Where to buy the Boleto Turistico in Cusco?

You can buy the Boleto Turistico at any of the Sacred Valley ruin sites you want to visit if you plan to go DIY.

However, you can also buy the ticket at the COSITUC office on Avenida El Sol 103 in Cusco Monday – Friday 8 a.m. – 6 p.m. and before 2 p.m. on Saturday.

You will need an ID or passport, as your name is placed on the ticket. Additionally, you will have to make payment in Peruvian soles and they will not take credit cards.

It is not possible to purchase the Boleto Turistico online or in advance.

What to do and see in the Sacred Valley, Peru?

There are many things to do and see in the Sacred Valley. These range from various ruins and archaeological sites, markets, tours, adrenaline activities, cool hotels, and lots of great food!

Sacred Valley Ruins

 

Ollantaytambo

Ollantaytambo is a small town in the Sacred Valley that sits the train station for those planning to head to Machu Picchu. It is approximately a 1.5-hour drive from Cusco. It is the best-preserved ruins of the Incan Empire.

Ollantaytambo was an Incan administrative center, military site, religious site, agricultural complex and a control point for the entrance to the Amazon area of the Inca Empire. It contains a massive ruin site which was used as a royal residence by Emperor Pachacuti.

The Ollantaytambo ruins also contain a fortress, terracing, a sun temple, a water temple, and ceremonial grounds.

Sacred Valley Peru Ruins under white clouds with green grass.

Pisac

Pisac is a small town in the Sacred Valley, approximately 20 minutes from Cusco, which was founded by Spanish Conquistador, Viceroy Toledo. It was one of the most important towns in the Incan empire.

The ruins of Pisac sit atop a hill and was a strategic military location to protect the city of Cusco. There is a ruin site that houses agricultural, military, and religious buildings.

The military ruins also include stone water channels and what is thought to be an Inca bathhouse. Pisac has an astronomical observatory.

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Chinchero

Chinchero is a small town that contains a small set of ruins and known as the “birthplace of the rainbow”.

The ruins at Chinchero consist of a series of terraces that were built for farming which are still in use until today. It is one of the best areas in the Sacred Valley to grow potatoes. Potatoes were one of the staple foods for the Inca and the people of Peru even today.

 

Sacsayhuamán

The Sacsayhuamán ruins, located just outside of Cusco, contain a fortress with many buildings that were constructed out of limestone. It is thought to be a ritual site.

The Sacsayhuamán ruins contain entrances to underground tunnels, amphitheaters, and construction likely related to the worship of water. The annual festival of Inti Raymi takes place at Sacsayhuamán, which performance the Inca ritual of worship to God Sun or Inti.

Sacred Valley Peru Hotel under clouds and green grass

Sacred Valley Salt Mines and Agricultural Terraces

Moray

The Moray Inca site is approximately 7 miles from Cusco. Moray is thought to be a greenhouse or Inca agricultural laboratory. It consists of four dugout amphitheaters or overlapping concentric circular stones at a depth of 150 meters.

It is thought that the Inca tested crops on each stone level as each terrace level simulated different elevations for growing their crop. The temperature difference varies as much as 30 degrees Fahrenheit between the top and the bottom terrace. Additionally, the soil at each level comes from different parts of Peru, further supporting the theory that this was an agricultural test site.

Maras

The Maras Salt Pools are a complex of salt extraction pools, located in the area known Qoripujio, which is approximately 4 kilometers from the town of Maras. Salt extraction was important for the Incas. The entrance to the salt mines is separate from the Boleto Turistico.

Each of the salt mines is still important and used today, as families still own and maintain their ponds. Previously, the salt mines were available to anyone wanting to harvest the salt. The only requirement was that the person had to be a member of the community and the size of the pond the person got depended on the size of their family.

During your visit, you can buy a small piece of salt or salted chocolate to take home as a souvenir.

Maras Salt Mines in the Sacred Valley Peru. White plots of salt pools.

Sacred Valley, Peru Markets

Pisac and Weaving

If you’re looking for alpaca woven knits, then Pisac is your place. The community is famous for it’s weaving. Every Thursday and Sunday there is a market with beautiful ponchos, textile crafts, sweaters, bags, ceramics, silver necklaces, etc. Artisans and indigenous merchants of many towns attend this market to show off and sell their products.

Chinchero

Chinchero is also known for its markets and textiles. Locals, in traditional Andean dress, use natural dyes to create amazing alpaca wool shawls, blankets, and tablecloths just to name a few. You can even try your hand at a weaving class with the locals in Chinchero.

Sacred Valley Adrenaline Excursions

Sacred Valley Mountain Biking

If you are a high adrenaline junkie then there are many options for you to see the Sacred Valley. You can go mountain biking down a mountain via the Extreme Jungle tour. You can also use mountain bikes to see many of the Inca ruins such as Qenqo, Pucapucara, and Tambomachay.

Sacred Valley ATV Tour

Seeing Moray and Maras by ATV is another great way to get your heart pumping while also seeing the Valley. At Cachi Life we have you covered if a quad bike is your preferred way of travel.

Man riding yellow ATV on a dirt trail with protective equipment and red helmet

Zipline and Bungee Jump

If you like the rush of open-air underneath you only restrained by a cable then doing a zipline experience in the Sacred Valley will be for you. If you want you can combine the ziplining with South America’s tallest bungee jump. We can set you up for this at Cachi Life if you want some crazy fun action.

Sacred Valley by Horse

Seeing Maras and Moray by horseback is a great option for anyone that wants to get out into the open of nature and away from a car tour but wants a little more subdued level of excitement. We can also set this up for you.

Sacred Valley Peru Horse on a trail with clouds in the background

Skylodge

Now, this is cool! You can rent a “hotel room” overlooking Ollantaytambo. This is a small glass pod that hangs off the side of a cliff. They are not cheap but they give an amazing view of the Sacred Valley and an even cooler experience. Do not attempt if you are afraid of heights!

Food in the Sacred Valley

Cusco and the Sacred Valley is an amazing spot for street food! Contrast this with Lima which tends to be wine and dine, cheap great food is all around.

Cuy

Cuy, or guinea pig, is a delicacy in Peru. There are two ways that cuy is cooked, fried or roasted. Both are great, but we like fried over at Cachi Life. You can find it in pretty much any restaurant in the Sacred Valley. It’s an adventurous meal but one that should not be missed.

Inka Cola

Inca Kola has a clearish green color and seems to have a bubble-gum flavor. It was first made in Peru in 1935 and is the pride and joy of Peru. Currently, it is owned by Coca-Cola. Make sure you pack a few cans of Inca Kola in your travel bag while you are visiting the Sacred Valley!

Antichuco

Antichuco is a popular street kabob. It comes in either beef heart (antichuco de corazón) or chicken, while the beef heart style is the most popular. The meat comes with boiled potatoes on the end kabob stick. It is generally marinated in vinegar and spices such as cumin, ají pepper, and garlic. We prefer the adventurous beef style. You should give it a try.

So there you have it. These are the top things that you should not miss while in the Sacred Valley. It’s not just a valley to travel through on the way to Machu Picchu from Cusco but rather a thriving lively place to visit!

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